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Setting and meeting goals just takes a little discipline on the part of dental hygienists.

5 steps to help dental hygienists become go-getters and goal-setters

April 1, 2024
Achieving goals is not only satisfying, doing so will help you further your career. You can also share some of your insights to motivate your patients.

Years ago, during a visit to Phoenix for my doctoral program residency, I had the great fortune of being in a classroom with an outstanding professor. The professor asked if we knew what the acronym BHAG stood for. She patiently waited for answers as students started blankly at her.

BHAG stands for big, hairy, audacious goal. The professor explained that this goal is almost impossible to reach. The operative word here is “almost.” I was working toward my PhD after a 26-year career in dental hygiene, so I felt I’d already achieved a BHAG, and I was working diligently toward a successful educational journey.

Looking back, I had no idea I would forever search for that next BHAG. I kept in touch with many of my classmates, and we often asked each other if we had decided on our next BHAG. But like most people, we’re busy building careers and often have little time to ponder that question.

Now, after nearly a decade of working as an educator and Dean of Academic Affairs, I realized how important goal setting is to success in both my professional and personal life. Although I had created annual goals, I joined the masses on Quitter’s Day, which is the second Friday in January, when 80% of people who created goals for the year realize they will not meet those goals. This is a sad but not uncommon situation. To be successful, you want to be a go-getter and a goal-setter.

According to Welsh, Baer, Sessions, and Garud, the goal-setting theory developed by Locke and Latham is perhaps the most important theory in the field of organizational behavior.1 Polansky suggested, “The overall idea of goal setting is to establish accountability, elevate focus, and keep employees and management excited about a company’s progress.”2

How SMART goals can help

The creation of SMART goals is a well-known and regarded concept. According to Leadership Briefings, goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.3 Vagueness should not be a part of this equation. Here are a few tips on how to be successful in your goal-setting journey.

  1. Create SMART goals. This can be one BHAG or several small goals.
  2. Document, document, document. Yes, just like you do every day in your operatory.
  3. When life gets in the way, keep going!
  4. Decide if you need a goal buddy or not. This is a personal choice.
  5. Celebrate mini milestones along the way.

Land noted that goals that focus on serving others, versus self-serving goals, can make goal-setters more motivated and productive.4 Hygienists serve our patients every day. Why not focus on helping patients set their goals while setting goals of our own? Educating patients is an integral part of our careers, so why not educate patients about goal setting‑‑with a dental hygiene focus? Keep in mind that goals are applicable to a wide variety of settings.

I’ve created 10 SMART goals and I’m excited every day to work on attaining those goals. I wish you the very best of success in reaching your goals!


  1. Welsh DT, Baer MD, Sessions H, Garud N. Motivated to disengage: the ethical consequences of goal commitment and moral disengagement in goal setting. J Org Behav. 2020;41(7):663-677.
  2. Polansky S. Setting smart goals for your small business in 2024. Wyoming Business Report. 2024;24(10):9.
  3. Get 2024 off to a great start with 7 goal-setting tips. Leadership Briefings. 2024;39(1):204.
  4. Land L. To make resolutions stick, ground them in service. Yoga J. 2021;319:46-47.



Margaret Vivoda, PhD, MBA, was an RDH for 26 years prior to transitioning into higher education. She has worked as a university administrator for approximately 10 years and is currently employed as a business professor for three universities. She is the owner of Inspired Coaching, and is a coach who helps individuals achieve their goals. Contact Margaret at [email protected].